Traverse Bay Winery Expands Exports to China


Chateau Grand Traverse is upping its exports to China by shipping about 660 cases of its Traverse Bay Winery Cherry Wine, an increase from the 60 to 240 cases the winery now distributes in a given shipment to the largest country in the world.

“(The distributor) has expressed to me that, in all like likelihood, they will order another container (holding 660 cases) this summer and another this fall,” says Eddie O’Keefe III, president of Chateau Grand Traverse. “If all goes well, they said it could be as much as a container a month in 2015, but I don’t want to get ahead of myself. That’s like counting your winnings before you leave the table.”

While exporting can be a time-consuming process, O’Keefe only sees the benefits. “It’s good for our winery, it’s good for the local farmers, and it’s good for the economy. And if we find success in other markets, generally, it’s a good inroad for others to follow — hopefully, this will help the Michigan wine industry in general.”

O’Keefe says his winery has also tested other products in the Chinese market, although the cherry wine is the first to truly take off. “We’ve sent our Pinot Grigio, Riesling, and our red wine blend, Silhouette, but those are in direct competition with the world over there. We’re competing against wineries in Germany, California, everyone. But with the cherry one, I don’t know if there’s even another one in that market.”

He says one of the main challenges has been a shortage of cherries combined with the industry’s marketing order, which puts a cap on the harvest in order to maintain pricing and supply. In 2012, 97 percent of Michigan’s tart cherry crop was destroyed by an early warm-up and then a late frost during the spring.

“It’s going to be a challenge to maintain a quality and consistent cherry wine product when we have seen multiple years of cherry crop reductions. If we can resolve this supply problem, we will likely be able to grow the market considerably over the next few years,” O’Keefe says.

Outside of China, Chateau Grand Traverse products are available in Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, Florida, Minnesota, New York, Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia.